Lee Foundation/West Hills Lodge

The Adair Building on the West Hills campus in Owatonna — home of the former West Hills Lodge — is in the process of being purchased by a new organization looking to once again provide rehabilitation to those battle substance addiction. The Lee Foundation will bring sober living back to the campus. (Annie Granlund/southernminn.com)

For a number of years, the Adair Building on the West Hills campus in Owatonna has remained empty, leaving those in the community wondering what its fate will be.

With a long history as the West Hills Lodge, a residential treatment center that provided housing and treatment programming for men 18 and older recovering from chemical abuse and dependence, it seems to be a natural transition to bring sober living back to the building.

During last week’s Owatonna City Council meeting, the council unanimously passed a resolution to eliminate certain deed restrictions on the property so it may be purchased by Anna and Lawrence Lee with the Lee Foundation. The Lee Foundation plans to put the property to its former use of a rehabilitation halfway house, which it had first became in 1978 and operated until just a few years ago when both the Owatonna and Northfield locations of the West Hills Lodge closed.

While old buildings often come with old problems, the new property owner had a few hoops to jump through when it came to the building’s deed.

When Steele County took over the building from the city of Owatonna in 1976, restrictions on the deed granted the city a right to repurchase the property if the county ever chose to sell it. In 1981, an additional restriction was placed on the deed when West Hills Lodge, Inc. took over the property dictating if the building was no longer used for a halfway house the property would then revert back to the county.

After West Hills Lodge vacated the building, the county decided that it did not want to retake ownership of the property. The property was instead sold to Azule Opportunities, LLC, in December 2019, though it remained empty.

With last week’s resolution, the Lee Foundation agrees that any changes to the exterior of the building will first be submitted to the city via the West Hills Commission for its approval.

In addition, the Lees have also agreed that if they should ever decide to sell the property they would give the city the first right of refusal.

Reach Reporter Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @OPPAnnie. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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